Marlies Borchers

Lying in a hammock in the front yard, Marlies holds her husband's hand as he speaks to her in soothing tones. She stares at the sunlight dapples between the leaves wondering how she can face her daughter who's asking her what's wrong.

Transcript : The Hard Part of Tomorrow

So, Marc has said to numerous people that I’m the most nervous and shaky speaker he has ever put on the Tell Us Something stage. I’m kind of a reward driven person so I’m here to defend that title. And it is scary, but I don’t want you to worry about me because I hydrated today. And so, if I start losing a lot of water up here–in one way or another–just bear with me and we’ll get through it, I promise.

So it’s the last days of July and I walk with my husband through the picketed gate of our front yard. And my kids are inside of the house and I know that I can’t look at them. And I had bought Bub–that’s my husband’s name not even kidding–I had bought Bub a hammock for Father’s Day, and I decided that I would climb aboard that unsteady sling. And he pulled up a lawn chair and sat down next to me, and told me that if I looked up through the canopy of the tree that where you could see the sky through it, you would also see all kinds of insects and birds and even the stars at night. And I’m looking up through the tree.

We had just come from the emergency room–and about ten hours at the emergency room. And it was really busy that day so we had a long wait–about three hours. And I was in the most immense pain that I ever hope to fathom. And all I could do at that point was bury my head in his shoulder, and try to detach myself as much as I could from my physical being. And when we finally did get called we stood up and I realized that the silent tears that had been coming in a steady drip from my face had soaked about a twelve-inch section of his shirt, which now clung to him in such a sweet, sad, pathetic, see through, kind of way. And he had handed me a lot of tissues, and I still had them clutched in my fist, but he never once asked me to use them.

My doctor decided that the first order of business that we would take care of was that pain. And she was the loveliest creature in the world, and angel, seriously. And while we waited for those orders to come through, and we waited for the medicine to actually take effect. He pulled up a chair next to me, and held my hand, and told me stories of every cold beer, and conch fritter we had ever had on far away beaches.

I knew exactly what was wrong with me, I had a hernia–an out of control hernia. I knew that was going to be embarrassing to say up here. My doctor was very gracious to me, and kindly explained that we would go ahead and do a cat scan anyway, just to rule out any other possibilities that my art degree may have not have helped me to find. And a cat scan, by the way if you’ve never had one, makes you feel one hundred percent like you are peeing your pants right there, right now. And you’re not, but you won’t believe anybody who tells you that you’re not. In case you wanted that information down the road, I felt like you should have it.

And so, like I said, this was a really long day, and it was shortly before we were sent home, in like the ninth hour of our visit when my lovely doctor returned again. And my husband slept in a chair upright next to me with half of a cafeteria sandwich in one hand, and an open packet of mayonnaise in the other. And I was drifting in and out kind of–you know I had been medicated pretty heavily. And she came in with another man, and another doctor. And there were a lot of words being said, and he said to me that in fact I did have a small hernia, but that it was no–in no way the cause of this kind of pain. And he said some other sentence that involved the words large mass. And I’m looking around at everybody–at my husband, and at my lady doctor, and at this new guy. And I’m like what, wait, wait, whoa, whoa, whoa, wait. I don’t even have time for this. I cannot be bothered with words like large mass.

And I said, “Are you trying to tell me that I have a tumor?”

And he said, “We want to be careful with that word, because tumor automatically implies to people that they have cancer, and we don’t have that information at this point. So, for today’s purposes, It’s a mass.”

OK, so what does mass imply? That it’s a jar of marmalade? And what’s large mean? Are we talking small rabbit? Are we talking breadbox? I was kindly told, in the sincerest way, to please try not to worry until I could see a specialist. And we went home.

So, in the hammock, I’m looking up in the tree for the points of light, and I’m trying not to worry. But the words by cancer–in my family–has always been followed by, get your affairs in order. And that was going to be especially tricky for me at this point because I hadn’t even had an affair. And when I was younger it would’ve been a better time to do that. So I’m all–anyway.

So at this point, my daughter bounds out of the house, and brightly says, “How’s Mom?”

And I’m looking up into the tree, and giant tears are rolling out of my eyes, into the hollow shells of my ears. And I hate myself in this moment. I hate myself for being weak. I hate myself for being scared, and I hate myself for being in pain. I hear my husband answer her, and he tells her that I’m going to be OK. And I take another second to hate myself for not being able to look at her and tell her that myself. And I don’t want this to be the moment that scars her.

When I was twenty-three I burst into the ICU waiting room where my mom lay in a coma, and the rooms beyond. And I got there just in time to hear the doctors say that she had less than a fifty percent chance of living until morning. And my dad hung there, suspended in air. The way a building does just after it’s been imploded, and he crumbled to the floor at his feet, and begged him for her life–begged him to save her.

Four months after that I visited him in the hospital, and I had driven from Missoula to Great Falls and spent some time gathering myself outside of his room, and got myself together and walked in and offered a, “Hey Dad. How are you?”

His hair was the color of wolves, and he gave me a quizzical look, and gently reached up and pulled a section of it out and tossed it on the bed before me. And I–after what seemed like an unbearably long silence, he looked at me and said, “What are you going to do?”

And I wasn’t equipped to have that conversation that day, and I never have been. So I simply offered that I was going to be a star, but what I knew in my heart was that I was very soon going to be an orphan. And no matter how many times he had told me that he would always be there to pick me up and dust my butt off, that he no longer could be.

And these are my scars. These are the scars that I carry that I’m desperately afraid on that day in the hammock of my children ever having. That they inevitably will have to have and these scars are like a like a large Russian woman that just stands on my throat.

What actually did come to pass was a pretty massive surgery. Sorry you guys I had to do it. And a humbling recovery, but I want you to know that my surgeon is the kindest man and a really good sport. And even though he wouldn’t let me keep it to make a lava lamp out of, he did humor me with taking a really great selfie of himself with my tumor in the operating room–he’s awesome. And it turns out that it was a little more on the side of breadbox than it was rabbit. And thankfully within a week or so we got the pathology back that it was also benign. And a tremendous burden and fear of the unknown was mercifully lifted from us all. Thank you.